French unions hold second nationwide marches against pension reform

France Unions vote to extend strike amid deadlock

French pension strikes expand, police gird for new protests

Macron argues that the reform is needed to keep the pension system from sinking into billions of euros of debt as life spans lengthen, and to make it more universally fair to all workers, not just those in certain professions.

However, unions flatly rejected the proposals.

Public services were disrupted around the country for a sixth day, especially in the capital, with only two of 16 metro lines offering full service and nine completely closed.

The French prime minister, Édouard Philippe, delivers a speech giving details of pension reforms.

Strikes in the rail industry, with a 20% reduction in high-speed TGVs and 30% on regional trains, sparked long traffic jams on the outskirts of Paris.

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To those anxious that the new points-based system might lead to successive governments devaluing the value of the point and therefore the amount of pensions, Philippe said the law will "guarantee" its value, which will be indexed on salaries and set by unions under the control of parliament. Those born before that date will not be affected in any way, he said, throwing out a sweetener.

"We're not at all happy", CGT leader Philippe Martinez told LCI television. Points will be allocated for maternity leave from the first child, instead of the third now, making women the "big winners" of this reform, Philippe said.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe praised trade unions for keeping the protests on a tight rein, minimising the violence.

Gilles Pierre, a Paris metro driver and member of hard-left union Solidaires-RATP, was on his seventh straight day of strike on Wednesday, and made a decision to continue.

France now has 42 different pension schemes across its private and public sectors, with variations in retirement age and benefits.

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The government's announcements come on the seventh straight day of a crippling transport strike and after hundreds of thousands of angry protesters have marched through French cities.

Unions fear Macron's retirement reform will force people to work longer for smaller pensions, even though the government says it won't raise the official retirement age of 62.

Mr. Philippe is anticipated to put out the specifics of the pension proposals in a speech on Wednesday, however it's unclear whether or not that can mollify the placing employees, a few of whom have vowed to proceed till the plans are scrapped altogether.

The overhaul will apply fully only to those entering the labour force in 2022, also the final year of President Emmanuel Macron's current term.

Beginning under Macron's watch, it will be harder for the law to be undone by a successive president but late enough in his mandate to avert protracted political harm.

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The strike is one of the largest since 1995, when Prime Minister Alain Juppe was forced to abandon a reform of the pension system after weeks of industrial action. That action paralyzed the country with widespread public support and were themselves compared to the events of May 1968, when France reached the brink of revolution.

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